Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Maps of Antietam by Bradley M. Gottfried

The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, Including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2-20, 1862. By Bradley M. Gottfried. Maps, notes, bibliography, index, 360 pp., 2012, Savas Beatie, www.savasbeatie.com, $39.95.

            Civil War readers tend to like maps.  We usually complain we cannot get enough of them.  This is not the case with Maps of Antietam, the newest release in Savas Beatie’s "Maps of ... "series.  Bradley Gottfried has given us another amazing volume of maps to complement his earlier Eastern Theater contributions, First Bull Run and Gettysburg.  There should be enough maps here to satisfy the most devoted student of the battle.

            The basic concept for each book in the series is that the right page has a full page map depicting a snippet of the battle or campaign while the facing page has text explaining the actions covered on the map.  Like the earlier volumes this book is in a large format (7X10) so the maps are nice and big and there is quite a bit of text accompanying each map.  The text is extensive enough, and footnoted, that one would have a good understanding of the battle if they simply read the text and never referred to the maps, but the incredible maps is what sets this book apart from other battle histories.  Of course one of the benefits of this book is paring it with a more detailed history of the battle so that one always has a great map at hand.

            This particular volume, Maps of Antietam, covers the three weeks of actions after the battle of Ox Hill.  Starting on September 2 1862 the two armies begins preparations for the next campaign, the Confederates deciding on crossing the Potomac while the Union withdraws closer to Washington to lick its wounds.  There is nearly a map per day as the armies begin maneuvering in Maryland.  This is then followed by nearly three dozen maps for the battles on South Mountain.  Then there is 10 maps detailing the capture of Harper’s Ferry before another section leads the armies to Sharpsburg.  The battle itself comprises nearly 60 maps, some of them covering as little as 15 minutes of combat.  Finally there are seven maps covering the forgotten action at Shepherdstown to close out the campaign. 

            Another interesting feature of the book is a short interview with the author.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before and while there is no earth shattering news here it is interesting to get a peek at the historian’s mind.  I also liked that the pages seem thicker than a normal book, if it was weatherproof I’m sure that would be listed prominently so I’m sure this is just to make the book a bit more durable for trips to the battlefield or the constant use it should see as one studies the battle.

            This is truly a must have book for anyone studying the battle of Antietam.  Good maps are always integral to a good book.  While the detailed battle histories often offer up many good maps none of them offer up maps this good and in this quantity.  But this is not simply a collection of maps as Gottfried has also written a good history of the battle himself.

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